Festive fares that feast the eyes and palates belongs in many shapes, flavours and offerings and in Asia, local gatherings ring in the seasonal joy with culturally-infused delights and recipes.
The pinnacle of a Christmas day features food as the main festivity. And as always, the holiday spirit makes the time-ticking preparation of a festal spread into a memorable one in most households. Whether it is for Christmas morning or the evening banquet, people across all culture get together in their own local fashion. From eating out, sourcing ingredients to cook their best heirloom recipe, Asians gather to dine in their classic rendition of a perfect holiday spread.
There are many cultural festivals in India and it is no surprise that Christmas is part of the many festivities. Referred as Badda Din (big day) in Hindi, Indian Christian minorities relish the day in their own traditions across the country. Kerala’s Syrian-Christians typically taste a little bit of everything so a classic Christmas offering in the morning would be appam (fermented rice batter and coconut milk) and meat stews of either duck, chicken, beef, pork or fish.
Turkey filled every table in the western world but for the Goan Catholics, it is not Christmas if there’s no pork. The unique cuisines in Goa are pork vindaloo, a curry with meat marinated in wine and garlic or pork sorpotel, a spicy chilli curry preserved overtime. Both dishes are influenced by the previous Portuguese colonialists in Goa.
Food to Try: Pork Vindaloo
Where to eat: Viva Panjim, Goa, India
A country with the longest Christmas celebration in the world shows what it means to observe its most significant holiday season. Starting early from September till the feast of Santo Nino in next year January, typical Christmas food begin to be sold and prepared everywhere. The highlight of the long countdown happens during noche buena which means good night in Spanish for Christmas Eve.
Noche buena sees Filipino families gather for the traditional dinner, serving mainly queso de bola (the Edam cheese), lechón (roasted suckling pig), spaghetti, bibingka (rice cake) and tsokolate (hot cocoa) as the popular beverage. Other than this, Filipinos enjoy fruit salad as a sweet dessert during the feast. Their common version of fruit salad uses drained canned fruit cocktail mixed with cream and sweetened condensed milk.
Food to try: Queso de Bola
Where to eat: Abe Filipino Cuisin Restaurant, Pasay, Philippines
Brimmed with holiday spirit, everywhere in Japan are illuminated with Christmas trees and ornaments although there are less than one percent of Japanese that recognises themselves as Christians. This is because the American occupation has left a distinct western and Japanese mix in their lifestyle and food. Today, Christmas and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) have become synonymous in Japan.
In 1970, the first KFC in the country introduced a party barrel to be of sold on Christmas and the ordinary fast food meal turned into a nationwide tradition in just 4 years. To get KFC for Christmas dinner, one will have to preorder weeks in advance. For dessert, Japanese Christmas cake is served as the centerpiece. The iconic cake is actually a fluffy sponge cake, coated with whipped cream and decorated with strawberries.
Food to try: Fried chicken
Where to eat: KFC, Japan
There is one food that unites people in the Middle East. Dolma, stuffed fillings in fruits, vegetables or wrapped in fresh leaves, is a traditional meal to feast during special occasions and gatherings. Originated from a Turkish word doldurma, which means stuffing, dolma is a regional cuisine found in Central Asia, Egypt, Arabia and the Middle East. Communities like Azerbaijan, Iraqi and Armenian Christians would prepare, serve and eat dolmas during the religious holiday.
Depending on regions and countries, dolma variates from the choice of protein like meat or seafood to vegetables like vine leaves or cabbage rolls and fruits. Other spread would normally include dograma, a Turkmen shredded meat and bread stew, another laborious preparation affair. Made with flatbreads, large pots of shredded protein and peppers, this dish is meant to be shared by a group of people.
Food to try: Dolma
Where to eat: Firuze, Fountain Square, Azerbaijan
Text by Jessy Wong